Long delay is long D:

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Kisho was waiting for him when Ichigo got back. His lifeless eyes had a tiny spark of interest in them. Ichigo would have loved to try and help Kisho, but if he failed, Kisho would undoubtedly tell someone, which would lead to Aizen discovering that he wasn't truly under control. Ichigo sat down on the sofa opposite Kisho, who was on the bed. And they simply stared at one another.

"I know." Kisho muttered after a while. Ichigo blinked.


"You are not under control." Kisho's eyes widened, as if he was terrifying himself just by talking. Ichigo didn't know what to say. "I hope no one asks me." The Arrancar muttered, eyes darting back and forth. "I don't want to tell them." Ichigo frowned, eyes narrowing.

"You don't sound like you're under control either."

"No one has told me that I cannot speak freely inside this room to you." Kisho muttered. Ichigo new he was stretching the rules. Technically, they weren't supposed to show emotion in front of Arrancar. So technically Kisho wasn't breaking the rules because other than himself, there were no Arrancar present.

"You are planning something. Something against Aizen-sama." Ichigo faltered, averting his eyes. Kisho leaned forwards towards him, fixing him with a penetrating stare. "You'll need a sword." He muttered. "When the time comes…" he looked completely petrified at what he was saying. "…Use mine."

"You're crazy. I would never hurt Aizen-sama." Ichigo said, trying to sound affronted. But somehow lying to this poor little Arrancar seemed wrong, even if there was a possibility that this was just another test. Kisho backed up against the wall, his whole body shaking.


"You should be ashamed of yourself." Ichigo muttered. Kisho's eyes grew even wider, darting all around the room as if desperately looking for an escape route.

"I… I'm sorry! Please don't tell Ulquiorra-sama! I didn't mean it! I just…" he trailed off, still trembling in fear. Ichigo felt awful, but he turned his back on Kisho and tried to get some rest. Now wasn't the time to be sympathetic. He had to think of a way to kill Aizen, and somehow set Grimmjow and Inoue free, then escape safely before anyone noticed Aizen was dead. He mentally groaned. His plan had seemed a lot easier when he'd made it, walking towards those two Espada in the school grounds.

"The Commander-general has refused your proposal." Lieutenant Choujiro stated. Urahara bit back a retort about Yamamoto refusing everything and tried to stay calm. He looked into the communication screen brought over from Inoue's house, berating himself for even trying this. Next to him were Rukia and Renji, the latter sporting heavy wounds from his fight with Stark. "Whilst he is very pleased and grateful that you managed to retrieve the hougyoku, he is unwilling to send his captains into Hueco Mundo just for one ryoka and an Arrancar." Again, more retorts flew through his mind, but Urahara was beaten to it by Rukia.

"That ryoka has put his life on the line and proven himself invaluable countless times! Does Yamamoto really want Aizen to have control over him?" even Renji looked shocked by Rukia's outburst.

"…And that 'Arrancar' is a very valuable asset to us." Urahara said. "He's the one who retrieved the hougyoku, not us."

"But still, Yamamoto will not send his captains into Hueco Mundo when they are needed to protect Soul Society."

"And what do the Captains think about this?" Rukia snapped.

"Rukia…" Renji tried, but she shushed him.

"Do none of them want to help us?" Choujiro was silent for a moment.

"It is not a question of wanting, Kuchiki. It is a question of obeying the rules. Yamamoto helped you all last time because we had the advantage of being in the living world. But Hueco Mundo is their home field. Even with the combined strength of the 13 divisions…"

"I didn't want to do this…" Urahara muttered. Choujiro hesitated, eyes narrowing in suspicion.

"I hope you're not thinking of doing something rash…" Urahara held his hands up.

"Oh no, nothing rash. It's just that I'm sure Aizen will send someone to retrieve the hougyoku, just as he did Ichigo."

"You agreed to destroy that thing." Urahara chuckled.

"Yes well, it may take me a while to figure out how, what with my mind being preoccupied with Ichigo's welfare… and if Arrancar were to come knocking on my door then-"

"This talk could be considered treason!"

"I can't really commit treason, since I've been banished already." Urahara muttered. "Nevertheless, I didn't want to take these actions…" both Rukia and Renji were speechless. Choujiro looked horrified. "To think that Soul Society has fallen so far as to not help out their comrades… it's appalling…"

"What you're doing is appalling!" the lieutenant spat.

"Why not ask the Captains what they want to do? If they want to help, then let them." Urahara said, shrugging. "That's all I'm asking for. If you do that, I'll work on destroying the hougyoku." Without a word, Choujiro closed the line of communication, leaving Urahara, Renji and Rukia in silence. A stunned silence for the latter two.

"Urahara-san…" Rukia muttered. "That was…"

"That was bloody amazing." Renji cut in. Urahara chuckled. "Good thing you didn't mention that you already had a way to destroy the hougyoku though."

"Well I wouldn't have had much of a bargaining chip if I had now would I?" Urahara said with a devious smile.

Grimmjow's cell door opened the next morning to reveal Nnoitra, looking annoyed. The fifth Espada had recovered a few days ago, but was still avoiding Aizen like the plague whenever possible.

"C'mon. Aizen-sama has ordered me to take you to the dining hall." Grimmjow was sat on the bed, legs draw up to his chest, arm resting on them. His head was leaning back against the wall, dulled eyes staring up at the ceiling. He snorted.

"What, so I can watch Ichigo prancing around with that little black haired bastard? No thanks. If Aizen's gunna feed me at all, I'll have it brought here like a normal fucking prisoner would."

"It wasn't a request." Nnoitra snapped. "Get up."


"Did I mention what Aizen-sama said he'd do to Ichigo if you refused?" Grimmjow faltered, eyes narrowing.


"It was quite vulgar." Nnoitra said with a smirk. "Do you really want me to repeat it?" Grimmjow snarled, getting to his feet and pushing past Nnoitra, heading out into the hallway. Nnoitra tutted behind him, shaking his head as they continued to walk. "You used to be such a warrior, Grimmjow. What happened to you?"

"I did something that a shallow bastard like you could never dream of doing." Nnoitra snorted.

"What? Fell in love? Yeah really seems like that love was reciprocated, eh?" Grimmjow ground his teeth. "It's all over Las Noches you know. Your betrayal and why you did it. And what Ichigo got up to yesterday with Kisho."

"Shut the fuck up." Grimmjow snarled.

"You gunna make me, fag?" Grimmjow let out a deep growl, spinning to punch Nnoitra. But he'd forgotten about the broken bones, and even as he curled his hand into a fist, pain shot through it and he winced, dropping his attack. "Pathetic." Nnoitra said, "Useless. No wonder Ichigo doesn't love you." He chuckled. "I wonder if Aizen would let me borrow him for the night…" this time Grimmjow did hit him, as hard as possible. His fist made a terrible crunching sound as it hit Nnoitra, and the black haired Espada barely moved. Grimmjow recoiled, clutching his fist. Nnoitra simply walked on. "You always were easy to wind up. Get a move on. I'm hungry."

Ichigo had never felt less hungry. But he knew that he had to eat, and act like he was desperate to do so, even though he was eating cold raw Hollow meat. Kisho was digging in right next to him, making awful slurping noises, eyes wide like saucers as they always seemed to be. They hadn't spoken a word since last night. Kisho seemed afraid to say anything else after what had happened last time. His lasting behaviour made Ichigo think that perhaps Kisho hadn't just been testing him to find out if he was faking subservience. He had to admit, having someone else on his side – someone with a sword would help him a lot, but he couldn't risk anything right now.

Aizen had put them both on the Espada table, which made Ichigo very scared. He didn't want to run into Ulquiorra. He didn't know if he could handle that. But he hadn't seen the stoic Espada at all since he'd gotten here.

Kisho tore a juicy strip of meat away from the rest, and it splattered blood all over Ichigo's hand. The red head fought the urge to recoil, sighing. He picked up his own meat and tore off a huge chunk, swallowing it in one. This method made quick work of his meal, and stopped him tasting most of it. But it gave him terrible heart burn. He was just wiping his mouth when he saw a flash of blue, and his attention turned fully on to it. Grimmjow had just walked in with Nnoitra, clearly ignoring Ichigo as much as he could. Kisho was watching Ichigo carefully, teeth embedded in his meat but not moving. The whole hall seemed to go quiet, some watching Grimmjow, others watching Ichigo. The red head's heart was beating faster. He wanted nothing more than to run up to Grimmjow and kiss him, but he knew he couldn't. He could feel Aizen's eyes on him from behind.

Grimmjow glanced up at him and their eyes locked, and Ichigo could almost feel how much the former Espada was hurting. Outwardly, he was the picture of indifference. But his eyes told a different story. Grimmjow looked away, following Nnoitra as he picked up a huge slab of Hollow meat.

Grimmjow knew better than to ask for food, and he wasn't hungry anyway. He sat down next to Nnoitra and kept his eyes on the floor, even though every fibre of his body was screaming at him to look at Ichigo, to search for some trace of light in those dark eyes. He thought for a second he'd seen it just now, but it had probably been wishful thinking. He was a mere three seats away from Ichigo… but he felt so much further away.

"Heh, look who it is." Nnoitra muttered, gesturing over to the door. Grimmjow followed his gaze and felt his heart drop. Ulquiorra had just walked in. If one could call it walking. The small Espada was heavily bandaged, limping, with dark circles under his eyes. He looked even thinner than usual and very weak. "You don't know 'bout him do you?" Nnoitra chuckled. "He got the shit kicked into him by Aizen-sama after Ichigo went and got himself saved. Aizen-sama wouldn't even let Inoue heal him. This is the first time he's been up since then."

"Fucking hell…" Grimmjow muttered. He watched as Ulquiorra limped over to the counter for food, picking up his plate with shaking hands. He'd barely gone two steps before he set the plate down again, hands gripping the counter as if he was about to fall over. Ichigo jolted to his feet, eyes locked on Ulquiorra. Grimmjow frowned at the red head – what the hell was he doing?

"Go on Ichigo." Aizen said from behind them in an amused voice. Ichigo moved quickly down to Ulquiorra, passing by the many hundreds of tables with gawping Arrancar seated at them. He didn't know exactly why he was doing it. Part of him felt guilty because he was the reason Ulquiorra had been beaten up, even though it hadn't been the Espada's fault. But there was another part of him that Ichigo was trying with all his might to suppress. A part that wanted to help his master so that he wouldn't get punished.

Grimmjow watched desolately as Ichigo moved towards Ulquiorra. Ichigo just wanted to help his master. But he'd needed Aizen's permission, obviously because Aizen had told him where to sit. He felt like screaming. He felt like ripping the spines out of every single Arrancar here, and using them to beat Aizen to death with.

Ulquiorra watched Ichigo come, eyes narrowing.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm… helping, sir." Ichigo said, picking up Ulquiorra's plate.

"Helping…" Ichigo nodded, holding out his arm. Ulquiorra watched him carefully. "Why would you help me?"

"Because you need it, Ulquiorra-sama. And I must help you if you need it." Ichigo said. Ulquiorra gave him a confused look, but stepped away from the counter.

"I can walk on my own." He muttered, limping away. Ichigo followed four steps behind, carrying the plate of Hollow meat. Halfway across the hall, Ulquiorra tripped. Ichigo dashed forwards, putting an arm around the Espada's chest just in time to stop Ulquiorra hitting the floor.

"Please sir, use my arm…" Ichigo muttered.

"You were trained not to talk unless told to." Ulquiorra muttered. Ichigo inwardly cursed. But Ulquiorra said nothing more, grabbing on to Ichigo's arm as they made their way up to the Espada table. The small Espada sat down away from everyone else, and Ichigo sat with him. He didn't quite know why. Just being near Ulquiorra made his flesh creep. It made him want to run as far away as possible and never look back. But he knew that he had to stay for some reason. Both Kisho and Grimmjow were watching him intently.

Ichigo stayed silent as Ulquiorra ate, keeping his eyes on the table and trying to keep as still as possible. Ulquiorra had barely eaten half of his food when he stood up shakily.

"Take me back to my room." He muttered. Ichigo stood at once and led him out. He couldn't help a glance at Grimmjow before he left, and saw the blue haired former Espada still watching him closely, eyes saddened and confused.

Ulquiorra's room brought back so many unwanted memories. Dark nights spent tied to the wall with searing hot objects pressed to his skin, days spent writhing on the floor in agony as burning, itching fluid coursed through his veins. He'd scratched at his wrists so much once that he almost died. The next night he tried to resist the needle going in, and almost died again when it tore his jugular vein open.

Ulquiorra sat down on the bed, taking a deep, steadying breath. Ichigo wanted to get out of the room, but he knew he couldn't without Ulquiorra's permission. He stood silently, eyes on the floor.

"Sit down." Ulquiorra said, gesturing to the sofa. The layout of the room was much the same as Grimmjow's, only Ulquiorra had chains on the walls and a fireplace with a dark fire burning in it. The fire gave out no light, but it was agonisingly hot. Hotter than normal fire. Ichigo sat down warily. He felt Ulquiorra's eyes on him. "I never trained you to act on your own." Ulquiorra muttered. Ichigo stayed silent, heart beating faster. "I trained you to come to my aid only when I asked for it, and I trained you never to speak unless spoken to, or given permission." Ichigo still remained quiet. Ulquiorra slowly leaned back against the wall, as if every muscle in his body was aching. "Did you think you could fool me of all people, Ichigo? Do you think that after all the time I spend torturing people into submission that I cannot tell when someone is acting?" Ichigo knew that there was no point hiding it anymore. Ulquiorra was right. He looked up at him, eyes set determinedly.

"So what are you going to do? Tell Aizen? Or just start torturing me again?" he tried to sound confident, but he was truly scared of the answer. Ulquiorra studied him for a moment.

"I am not going to do anything." He said simply. Ichigo blinked.

"What? Why not?"

"That you were able to find yourself again after being completely under my control is admirable. But to come back here in hopes of saving your friend and your lover, that is foolish." Ichigo scowled. Not only had Ulquiorra insulted him, but he hadn't answered the question.

"I didn't know Grimmjow was here when I came back actually." Ichigo snapped. "I came back because a lot of people would have died if I hadn't…"

"You came back to kill Aizen as well, didn't you?" Ichigo frowned. Ulquiorra hadn't called him 'Aizen-sama'.


"I am no longer loyal to him." Ulquiorra muttered. "After so long serving him flawlessly, to be treated in such a way over something that was out of my control…" Ulquiorra shook his head. "I do not have to explain myself to you." Ichigo already understood though. He knew as well as anyone that Ulquiorra was always Aizen's golden boy. He was strong, obedient, and loyal to a fault. Ulquiorra must have thought that Aizen truly valued him. And then he was beaten to within an inch of his life just because he'd been overpowered and retreated. Aizen had even forced him to heal naturally from such a horrendous beating.

"Why don't you help me then? Help me beat him!" Ulquiorra gave him a scathing look.

"Do you really think that either of us is a match for Aizen?"

"Not in a head-to-head fight but… I'm waiting… I'm waiting for him to drop his guard around me…"

"So not only are you going to attack him in a cowardly way," Ulquiorra muttered, "But also without a weapon? You do not have limiters on your reiatsu anymore, but Aizen will sense the second you raise it to fight. You do not even have Zangetsu." Ichigo scowled, but he couldn't say anything. Ulquiorra was right. Ichigo really hadn't thought this through. The small Espada shifted slightly to try to get more comfortable before continuing. "Even if your plan is ridiculous, I would still help." Ichigo blinked in surprise. "But I am in no state to help anyone."

"Maybe if we freed Grimmjow and Inoue… maybe then-"

"The most you could hope for is a very risky escape back to the human world. To which Aizen will simply send more Espada to retrieve you. And you will not be able to feign subservience a second time."

"So what do you suggest!" Ichigo snapped. Ulquiorra's eyes narrowed ever so slightly at his tone, but even that was enough to make Ichigo's blood run cold.

"I suggest you continue your little charade as I will mine. No one can beat Aizen. Be grateful that he at least sees you as valuable enough to let you live."

"You're really going to go on serving him…"

"There is no other option." They were both silent for a while before Ulquiorra motioned to the door. "Get out." Ichigo left without a word, still slightly overwhelmed at what had just happened. Ulquiorra of all people wasn't loyal to Aizen? But loyal or not, Ulquiorra couldn't be counted on. He was going to carry on serving Aizen so that he wouldn't be killed. Ichigo felt utterly defeated. He couldn't think of any way… any way at all to beat Aizen now. He'd let himself get caught for this chance. He'd betrayed Grimmjow for this chance. And now he was realising that 'this chance' probably didn't even exist.

"Whatcha doing?" Ichigo jolted slightly, turning to find Ichimaru grinning at him a mere three feet away.

"I… I don't know." He muttered. "Ulquiorra-sama told me to get out and now…"

"You don' have any orders?" Ichigo nodded. Ichimaru chuckled. "So ya don' know what to do. Well it's a good thing I came up here to find you then."

"Do you need me to do something Ichimaru-sama?"

"Not me. But Aizen told me ta let you down to see Grimmjow." Ichigo was sure his heart had leapt into his throat. He tried to act calm.

"Please forgive me but… why, sir?"

"It's a reward I think." Ichimaru shrugged. "Get down there whenever ya want. Aizen's bein' nice. Go with it." He said, chuckling.

Ichigo made his way down to Grimmjow's cell with a stream of questions flowing through his mind. There was no way Aizen was being nice…this had to be another test. Perhaps Aizen had hidden someone… maybe even himself down there with his sword. Maybe he was just waiting for Ichigo to slip up. But why did Aizen still not trust him? Hadn't he proven himself yet? It was hell, being here. Having to be so suspicious of everything. He couldn't live like this.

Ichigo opened the door to Grimmjow's cell and found the blue haired former Espada sat on the bed. It took a few seconds for Ichigo to realise that he was chained to the bed, and there was a slow stream of blood coming from his head. Grimmjow tensed at the sound of the door opening, but his eyes grew wide as Ichigo stepped in, closing the door behind him.

"Ichigo…" Ichigo wanted to ask what had happened to him, but he couldn't in case someone really was here. He settled for giving Grimmjow the most confused look he could muster, hoping Grimmjow got the point. Luckily, he did. "I wasn't too thrilled about being chained up, is all…" he muttered. "Why are you here?"

"I…" he paused. Even if Grimmjow wasn't an Espada, he was still an Arrancar. So technically, he still had to answer truthfully. "Aizen-sama told me to come. It's a reward." Grimmjow snorted.

"Wonderful. So this is my next punishment." A smirk full of resentment settled on his features. "I wondered why I was tied to the bed…" Ichigo frowned, confused. "I'll give him one thing, his cruelty really is perfect." Grimmjow turned back to Ichigo. "Well go on then."


"Go on." Grimmjow snapped. "I'm past fucking caring!"


"First I'm a prisoner then I'm a whore… I wonder what he'll fucking throw at me next…" Grimmjow muttered. He started to laugh. "Heh, maybe you can bring that little black haired fucker down here and I can watch him fuck you! Better yet, how about a threesome? I'm sure Aizen would love that!" Grimmjow was getting slowly more hysterical. "You'd do anything for him, right? I'm not worth anything anymore, right?"

"STOP IT!" Ichigo yelled. Grimmjow jolted, falling silent. The red head moved shakily forwards until he was stood infront of Grimmjow, wrapping his arms around the other's shoulders and pulling him forwards into a hug. Grimmjow's eyes were wide and confused as he was pulled against Ichigo's chest, only silent out of shock. "I'm sorry…" Ichigo whispered. "Oh god I'm so sorry…" Grimmjow pulled back slightly to look up at him.

"Ich-" he was cut off by Ichigo's lips as the pressed down on his in a soft, apologetic kiss. Ichigo's hand trailed down Grimmjow's neck, and he broke the kiss to hold the former Espada even closer, shaking slightly. "You're back…" Grimmjow whispered. Ichigo bit his lip.

"I… I never left." He felt Grimmjow tense in his arms. This was what Ichigo had been afraid of. Even more so than there being someone else in the room. Grimmjow's reaction to hearing that he'd been himself when…

"But you… you…"

"I had to convince Aizen!" Ichigo said, desperately holding on to Grimmjow, eyes clamped tightly shut, not wanting to see the look on his lover's face. "I didn't want to die before I had a chance to kill him!"

"So you sucked off that bastard infront of me… you kissed him…"

"I had to!" Grimmjow growled. Ichigo knew that growl. It was a warning. But Ichigo didn't want to let go.

"Get off me."

"No." Ichigo muttered.

"Get off!" Grimmjow snarled, thrashing in Ichigo's arms. With the power restraint on, Grimmjow couldn't overpower Ichigo, but he brought his nails down into Ichigo's flesh, tearing angry red lines into his skin. Ichigo ground his teeth, trying to block out the pain. Grimmjow wouldn't stop thrashing. He finally let out a furious roar and sank his teeth deep into Ichigo's neck. Ichigo cried out in pain but still didn't let go. He stood shaking, arms wrapped around Grimmjow, with the other's teeth embedded in his neck. He felt his own blood seep down his back. There was silence for a few minutes before Grimmjow's teeth moved away, and the former Espada's arms wrapped tightly around Ichigo's waist. "Damn you…" he muttered against Ichigo's neck, nuzzling the bite mark almost apologetically. "You make me so weak…"

"Sorry…" Ichigo said dully. His whole body was aching from Grimmjow's thrashing nails and teeth, and he was very grateful that Grimmjow had stopped. "If there had been any other way…."

"I can't blame you… you didn't choose what Aizen told you to do… you did it to stay alive…" Grimmjow's voice was shaking slightly even as he said it.

"It still might not be enough… if there's someone in here watching… we're both dead…" Grimmjow snorted.

"There's no one here, idiot. But we're dead anyway. I can just about see why you came back here, but you'll never get a chance to kill Aizen." He pulled back a little to look up into Ichigo's eyes. "I can't stand another little show like that, Ichigo. I'd rather die." Ichigo ran a hand through Grimmjow's hair absently, trying to stop his heart aching so much. "I don't want you to die… but I can't stand watching that…"

"I know… I'm sorry…" Ichigo sighed. "I know now… that there's no way… even if I waited a hundred years… I haven't got a chance…"

"And now you know why we all bow to him." Grimmjow muttered.

Aaaaand hopeless situation is hopeless! Will there be a happy end?
Review please!